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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

'70's Mopar police cars - which would Rosco drive?

...all this talk about the '68/'69 Dodge Charger comparo post (General Lee!) and the recent '70s Firebirds post (Smokey and the Bandit!), inevitably makes me think about the other guys - the '70's police cars, sometimes driven by daft Rosco Coltrain-types, sometimes driven by the heroes themselves, who were always competing with the good/bad guys...  And for some reason, they were usually in Dodge and Plymouth Mopar police cars vs. Chevys and Fords... 


So...  ...how have these '70's Mopar police cars been modeled in 1:64 scale...?  Are there any good models?  Read on and see...!

First up is the one of the newest models, the retro Dodge Monaco Police car, released in the last few years by Matchbox.  I've heard other bloggers comment on how excellent of a model it is...  ...but for this casting along with the other retro Matchbox, I remain solidly luke-warm.  I think I'm put off by the overly shiny (and hence cheap looking) plastic grills combined with the ultra-wide wheels... 

But even I have to admit that this particular casting's not too bad.  It's size is reasonable - and I'm a guy who loves seeing the big '60s and '70s American cars modeled - especially when its a more normal car vs. another endless muscle car.   It's trim and detail are reasonable.  On the downside, it's tires are too wide (though the wheels look good), it's light bar too fake and plasticky, it's bottom base-plate ridiculously fake and plasticky, etc.  As with other retro Matchbox castings, I wonder why collectors are so interested in them - especially when authentic vintage fair-good condition castings are available for not much more on E-Bay.

Next up is the champion, the Lesney Matchbox Plymouth Gran Fury police car, a car from my childhood and so the archetypal Matchbox police car for me...    Yes, this one is an immediate favorite for me. 

It's a smidgeon longer than the above Monaco, a full size car from the Lesney era.  THe metal baseplate gives it a nice heft, the light bar is solid, the metal work in the grill is quality, etc.   All in all a great model!  ...Though not as great of a model as the earlier Mercury police car (but that's not Mopar!), nor of the Hot Wheels Mercury police red-line (a favorite model of mine), but a solid contender from the Lesney era.  On a scale of 1-10, a solid 7....   Does it get any better than this...?

Next up are the Kidco Dodge Monacos, in regular, lock-ups (rubber tires!) and burnin' key car form.  All but the key car have opening doors and a full interior.  They are sized right in line with the Lesney, though I wonder how realistic the 2 door configuration is for a police car.  The plastic bases and grills detract relative to the Lesney, but the opening doors are a nice touch, as are the rubber tires on the lock-up Park Service model (which as the nicest version, will be the one used for the comparison).

The suspension isn't up to Lesney standards (the lock-up version has no suspension), but otherwise the car compares favorably.  I would again rate it a 7 of 10, though the lesser "normal" Kidcos (blue and yellow above) are probably only a 5, and the key-car version without an interior is probably only a 2...


Zylmex did an older Plymouth (in the background to the right), with a metal base and opening doors.  The plastic grill looks a bit cheesy, and the car is sized a tiny bit smaller than the Kidco and Lesneys (though large for a Zylmex.  The light bar is awful but the rest of the car is A-OK, again a solid 7....

A Yatming is up next.  If you read my "top 30 Yatmings of all time" post, you'll understand when I refer to it as a poorer, newer, cheaper Yatming casting, with plastic base and grill and no opening parts.  It's size is right in line with the Kidco though, and even as I see its flaws I still like this casting. 

It's fun to see both Kidco and Zylmex out-quality the Yatming, given that Yatming occasionally has real quality products...  Too bad they didn't a police version (or if they did - I don't have it!) of their Coronet (1st on my list of the 30 best Yatmings of all time!). 

Tomica comes up next, the last of the vintage models, with thier F-Series (US Market) Dodge Coronet in police and taxi guise.  It's sized right in-line with the Zylmex and has similar detail, but done in metal vs. plastic.  It has typical Tomica quality, with a soft suspension, nice trim and opening doors.  I give it another 7...

Playing Mantis is next to the fight, with their Johnny Lightning Dodge.  This one is BIG and solid, without opening parts, but undeniable presence.   The metal detail (real pusher bars!!!) and paint are both beautiful and it comes with rubber tires, though for me the newer casting lacks vintage appeal.   For the sake of argument, I give it a 7, though I wonder if it doesn't deserve more....

Finally, Greenlight comes along with THEIR '74 white Monaco, a HUGE car, much larger than the rest, with exquisite detail and crazy large lights.  The size is a bit off-putting - does it really need to be this much larger than the others...?, though the rest of the models attributes are captivating (glass stop lights?!?).  Correct wheels and hidden headlights give credibility to this model - I have to give it at least an 8.5...

But where is ERTL?  Didn't they do a Dukes of Hazard line that sold for 30+ years (sometimes you can STILL find it on the pegs), with Rosco's police car...?!?   To answer the question, Yes, they did Rosco's police car, though for an odd reason they chose to press an existing casting of an early '80s Oldsmobile 88 into service instead of creating an authentic casting...  This was a rare oversight, since the other ERTL DoH castings are more authentic.  But regardless, an Oldsmobile's not Mopar, so I excluded the casting (it would have ranked poorly anyway...!). 

And what about Hot Wheels - doesn't it have an entry here?  Well, again, no.  They did several '70s police cars, including the wonderful Mercury Park Lane and a 442.  But these were both replaced by a generic police car which did not appear to be based on any real car...  From the headlights and grill you could almost believe it was Mopar - but the rest of the car makes it clear that it is no specific model...  Shame on you Hot Wheels - this car might have been the first example of the current trend of non-licensed castings.

So, how do these 8 castings - 6 vintage - 2 retro modern - compare...?  Which is the best '70s Mopar police car...?  First, let me be clear - these are all super-nice castings...  This is a hard decision to judge!

Well, the first one to eliminate is the Greenlight...  Don't get me wrong, it is an AMAZING casting.  Possibly the nicest casting ever done by Greenlight.  This is a display case car - a museum car - an heirloom car.  The problem is the scale...  It just doesn't FEEL like 1/64.  It might actually be correct "true scale", with the rest of the entrys being too small - but I don't really think so.  I think that this is more like 1:55 scale - and as such - it just doesn't really belong in this bunch of cars.  The Greenlight wins in a special category of cars - those bound to be displayed in a museum.  For those of looking for "Matchbox-like" cars - ones that you can zoom around on the carpet and chase Bo and Luke in their General Lee - read on! 

Among the remaining contenders, it becomes a very close fight - probably the hardest 7 casting battle to differentiate that I've done to date.   There's not a loser in this bunch - I really like all of the cars.... And how fun is it that we have 3 cars from non-name brand vintage labels - the Kidco, the Zylmex and the Yatming, duking it out on an even playing field with the Tomica, the Lesney Matchbox and the Johnny Lightning!?!  This comparison serves as evidence for anyone who needs convincing that these old drug-store brands are worth collecting...! 

The new Matchbox is the first to go.  A good casting.  If it had opening doors, or a suspension that actually had some give, or a shade of plastic for the grill that wasn't SO glaringly bright, it might have actually gotten higher in the finishing order.  But not a bad finish for a retro Matchbox, all things considered, and I have to admit that I'm impressed by this casting.  You need a couple of these for your police station layout... 

The Yatming is the next easiest to eliminate.  It is the cheapest of the remaining, with the least features...   But I still like this casting.  I'm glad I've got it.  Its a great addition to my collection - just not quite up to the standard of the other castings.  It takes a proud and hard-fought 6th place. 

With 5 cars remaining, the competition gets even tougher...  The perennial favorite Lesney Gran Fury...  the soft and silky Tomica Coronet...  The over-achiever over-detailed Johnny Lightning Dodge with rubber tires...  the forest preserve dark horse Kidco lock-up with rubber tires, or the even darker horse upset Zylmex Plymouth with opening doors...? 

The Kidco falls next - it just feels like the wrong real car to model a police car on...  A 2 door?!?  Plus the grill is a bit cheap-looking... 

Thinking about it, looking at the models, and running them back and forth, another car falls out of the pack...  This time its a real surprise, as the Tomica gets relegated to 4th place (by me - the blogger who loves Tomica!).  It just lacks the "gotta have it" factor for me...  nothing I can put my finger on - but this is what a comparison test is all about.  4th place - just missing a podium finish... 

In 3rd place it'll be the new model - the Johnny Lightning.  This is a great model with amazing detail, great heft, and wonderful rubber tires...   but lacking the vintage appeal of the other models.  A great casting by any view, and with opening doors, possibly a winner... 

2nd place is the dark horse candidate - the Zylmex Plymouth...  I REALLY wanted this model to win - just to see Zylmex beat out Tomica, Lesney Matchbox, Mattel Matchbox, Greenlight, Kidco, and Johnny Lightning for the title...  And it ALMOST beats them all, all except for Matchbox!  Nice job Zylmex - I love this car! 

And that leaves Matchbox as the winner.  When this test started I really wasn't sure that the Gran Fury was going to be able to hold off the challengers.  But this casting is a quality casting - and the quality kept pulling it back to the top of the pack.  One of the best of the late '70s Lesney castings, and the best '70s Mopar police car in 1/64th scale...! 

P.S.  This really was a fun comparison - of 8 wonderful castings.  All of these are great, and every one's a winner.  If I wrote the blog tomorrow night, I might pick out an entirely new order. 

P.P.S.  There are many people who would pick the Greenlight to win outright - no comparison - and I understand and appreciate that attitude.  It's an amazing piece.  In a way its far nicer than the other modern casting - the Johnny Lightning...  ...but also in a way it just out-sizes everything else - which for me, was its downfall! 














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